It’s manatee season in Florida again. What does that mean exactly? Well, I’m glad you asked. When the temperatures drop, the river and ocean waters cool down causing manatees to seek the warmer waters of the Florida Springs.
A few years ago, I went swimming with manatees in Crystal River. I would love to do it again someday, but this time I opted for the dryer adventure, at least it was supposed to be.
We don’t tend to plan ahead but go with the flow. Since it was finally cool again after a warm Christmas, we decided to head to the springs to see if we could catch a glimpse of some manatees. We were literally in the car about to get on the highway when we decided to try a clear bottom kayak tour.
Booking the tour was so easy
Since manatee season can be a popular time for Floridians to head to the springs, we figured we should probably call ahead. I went online and found Get Up and Go Kayaking. Found the website, booked the tour, and 2 and a half hours later we were loading into our kayak.
Our guide mentioned he hadn’t seen too many manatees on his earlier tours, but he was willing to take us to Three Sisters Springs where we would have the best chance of seeing them. Of course, this is where the real challenge began. Getting to Three Sisters was ridiculous. Gusty winds and strong currents in the open waters made it impossible to get there without waves crashing into our kayak. I thought for sure we were going to capsize. I paddled the hardest I’d ever paddled in my life to get to calmer water. I regretted that decision the next day.
Finally calmer waters! The current slowly took us straight back to Three Sisters Springs. On the way, our guide was spotting manatee everywhere. Totally worth the struggle.
It was amazing to see their footprints in the water just inches from the kayak.
Three Sisters is a protected sanctuary for the manatee. We couldn’t get too close but it was nice to just sit and rest my arms for a moment before we made our way back.
Oh, scratch the part where I mentioned I paddled the hardest I’d ever paddled in my life. The trip back was so much worse. I just looked down and kept pushing towards the starting point. But wait, the tour wasn’t over just yet. AHHHH I felt like my arms were going to fall off. Again, we made the turn out of the open water into another canal and found ourselves in much calmer, clearer waters. This is what I came for.
I could see straight to the bottom from my kayak. Eventually, we made it to another spring area. Our guide spotted a mother and calf, and we slowly floated towards them. Manatees are a lot quicker than I thought. I would see a tail, and then poof they were gone. But luckily they didn’t leave the area too quickly, and we got a few chances to see them up-close. What an incredible experience to see them slowly float beneath your kayak.
I would recommend this tour. However, the best time to go is after it has been cold for a few days in a row. Better chances of seeing manatees. Oh, and maybe opt for a day that’s not so windy.